On 24th February 1917, Acting Corporal Walter George Riggs was killed whilst on duty in the trenches in Vimy Ridge with the 26th Battalion (New Brunswick Regiment), Canadian Infantry. His foot was blown off by the explosion of an enemy fishtail bomb. Comrades rendered first aid and he was taken to a dressing station and evacuated to No. 42 Casualty Clearing Station where he died. He is buried in Aubigny Communal Cemetery Extension, France.
Born in Solihull on 11th July 1895, Walter was the second child born to parents, Andrew Tom Riggs and Alice Sophie (née Brooks), who had married in Solihull in 1894. Walter had an older sister, Alice Elizabeth Mary (1894-1985), and a younger brother, William Henry (1897-1957). The children’s father, Andrew Tom Riggs (listed as Thomas Riggs in the burial register) died, aged 28, in 1900, whilst living at Ulverley Terrace, Olton. He left his 25-year-old widow, Alice, with three young children and, by 1901 she had moved to Shirley, where she was working as a dressmaker.
Presumably, Alice was unable to manage financially, and so her three children were sent to Middlemore Homes to be cared for. They became three of the more than 5000 British Home Children sent from Middlemore Homes to Canada, leaving Britain in May 1908, sailing on the Carthaginian from Liverpool to Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Alice remarried at Solihull Register Office in October 1908, by which time she had two more children – Nancie Lilian (born 1901) and Robert Richardson (1905-1924). Alice appears to have set up home in Elmdon Heath and had five more children with her second husband, Edward William Richards. Edward himself was a soldier who enlisted with the Royal Artillery in 1898, transferring to the Reserves in 1905. He re-engaged in September 1911 and, in 1914, agreed to continue serving for the duration of the war. He was demobbed in February 1919 with 21 years of service.
Walter Riggs’ younger brother, William Henry, also enlisted in the Canadian Infantry, joining the 236th New Brunswick Battalion (The New Brunswick Kilties, also known as Sir Sam’s Own) on 13th February 1917, aged 19 years and three months. He gave as next-of-kin his sister, Alice, who had married Edgar Augustus Neal (1879-1966) and was living in New Brunswick.
The children’s mother continued to live in Elmdon Heath with her second husband and their children. She died, aged 76, in 1947. Although he had emigrated to Canada in 1908, Walter’s name is included on the Solihull war memorial.
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Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
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